Thursday, December 29, 2011

Article Comparing the Occupy Movement to Populism

Worth a read, check it out:

I like it, it is good, read it. That being said, the Farmers’ Alliance and the populists voted on things. They didn’t practice “true consensus”. Neither did the labor movements in the early to mid 1900s or the civil rights movements. I personally think voting which is easily understood and learned is more empowering and inclusive to people than is lecturing them on confusing hand signals and why “90-10″ consensus (or worse) that allows tiny minorities to balk the will of overwhelming quantities of rational people in a room is a good idea. Consensus was invented, in my opinion, by small groups of internally oriented and often unsuccessful activists who had very limited perspectives on or experience with mass participation. They often came from academic circles and were trying to build movements in a period of generalized working class retreat from political activity. In my humble opinion, trying to impose consensus today on a new and actually vibrant movement is as mechanical and unhelpful as is a dogmatic “marxist” distributing their newspaper outside the factory gates and telling the workers if they don’t organize in such and such a way and join this or that party, they are somehow wrong or "counter revolutionary".

I agree with Malcolm X that “I’m for what works”. If occupying something works, I’m for that. If consensus can work (I don’t see this happening), I’m for that. If voting works, I’m for that. Sometimes voting doesn’t work, like drawing up a schedule at work. Have you ever made a schedule for a job? It can be confusing and you can’t make one in a room with 70 employees all trying to make it and trying to vote on every shift. You have to get everyone’s availability and skill level and then you need one person to centralize that information and then draw it up. Of course you can always modify it later, and switch shifts with people, and make it a little more efficient, but it is an example of a time of organization where mass democracy is better suited if it elects one person to do it. Same thing with making a flyer. You don’t make a flyer with 70 people all trying to think of how to format it, crowded around one screen. You can delegate.

What is great about the current moment is that authoritarian, Russian and Chinese style single party police state “communism” is discredited and the parts of the left that always looked to foreign governments (instead of to their own conditions) for their blessings of purity and a correct, general party “line”… that kind of politics doesn’t dominate the left any more. That part of the left is gone and what is left of it doesn’t convince anyone.

At the same time, the liberal left that tells us to always vote democratic party is also discredited. Nothing better for that than to actually elect a democrat. That’s why Nader was so strong in 2000, and not in 2004 or 2008. People just had 8 years of democrats and they knew they didn’t work.

Similarly, nothing out of the “anti-globalization” or anti war movements is really that large or real, in terms of impressive sizes of any organizations, or victories in terms of number of battles won that we can learn from. That kind of punk rock anarchism that the black block kids were into, or the people who tried to split from every anti war march and go down another street and break things, that hasn’t won or gotten huge either. So that’s a dead end, and dressing up like a seattle protester from 1999 and trying your best to act like one isn’t going to make you a successful winner of radical gains either.

These are all, intellectually, very liberating things. We’re not controlled by past ideologies, at least most of us who are thinking people are not. Re-inventing the wheel is bad, but far worse that than is being permanently hitched the the wagon of dogmatic adherence to ineffective political ideologies.

On a whole, I liked the article, and I think the author’s perspective is great. Let’s look at past movements, see what worked and see what didn’t. Lets repeat things we thought were good and try to avoid mistakes.

And most importantly, let’s not think just because we’ve read more about past movements that we are somehow going to be more correct, politically, on certain questions. “Theory is gray, green is the tree of life.” Life experience is always the best educator and former of political opinions. People seem to almost always form better opinions when they listen first, and speak second.

If you're interested in learning more about the populist movement, I highly recommend you read C Vann Woodward's book Tom Watson: Agrarian Rebel. Other good books about the early Socialist Party which grew out of the remains of the Populists are Ira Kipnis' The American Socialist Movement and Ray Ginger's The Bending Cross

Monday, December 19, 2011

Permanent War or Peace Through Sustainability

When the average American finds himself without food for three meals in a row, the ensuing chaos (riots, etc.) will make the United States a rather inhospitable place to be. Martial Law will immediately be declared, and the country will become a police state starvation camp. This can all be avoided, by the way, by shifting America away from an oil-based economy.

Here is a good article about Peak Oil written in 2007.

Here is a story about a town in Germany whose renewable energy systems generates 321% more electricity than the town itself needs.

Here is a fascinating story about the estimates of a Stanford professor who calculated what it would cost to shift America to a solar and wind energy system.

If you've never heard about "concentrated solar power" before, here is a great article about it on a popular, free, collectively edited internet encyclopedia.

Now, what few facts do we know about ME?

1) I work in a restaurant at a ski resort.

2) I slept in the truck last night up here because I was tired and I didn't want to drive home.

3) I live in a town of 850 people in the summer in almost total political isolation from mainstream America.

This means that there are restaurant workers sleeping in trucks at ski resorts who spend almost half of their year in total political isolation from any part of organized political life in America and some of them have better ideas, and more vision about how to create a sustainable long term future for our civilization than do any elected politicians from either of the two political parties.

Is that because people sleeping in trucks and working in restaurants are more intelligent than people with graduate degrees and years of paid political experience? Does it mean I, with google and a facebook news feed in lieu of any "Central Intelligence Agency" or "Federal Bureau of Investigation" have access to any kind of secret information that most people never hear about?


It does not take a whole lot of special knowledge or international networks of spies to learn about this stuff. You can go online and read for yourself.

So why isn't anyone in Washington talking about any of this?

It is because this is not a free and democratic country, and the people making decisions in Washington are doing as the representatives of short sighted oligarchy and nothing else. This is a country where rich people and rich corporations pay someone from their own ranks to represent their own interests. That is all they care about. Making money. Quite a lot of it has already been invested into oil and gas extraction, and politicians are bribed by legalized bribers called "lobbyists" to allow those invested interests to get the maximum possible profit- through of course destroying our environment and creating an unstable civilization that based on diminishing supplies of fossil fuels and increasing global war.

There is a GREAT LIE that renewables are bad because running an electric car off a solar / wind grid would cost more than running a car on gasoline. This is not the case! The true and "hidden" costs of oil are to be found in the tax-payer subsidized military industrial complex! Hundreds of billions of dollars a year pour from Congress into the Pentagon and from there into the coffers of the weapons makers. THAT is the source of our great budget deficits- not overpaid teachers, but overpaid war mongerers.

The cost of oil is something you will only come close to calculating when you factor in the costs of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi, Afghan, and Palestinian dead. How do we quantify such a thing? Certainly, of course, not in war reparations! How much does it cost to afford medical care to a decade's worth of veterans with hundreds of thousands of PTSD cases and TBIs for the rest of their lives? How much does it cost to maintain over a thousand military bases?

Like the Wall Mart super profits supported by the nation's largest workforce being eligible for food stamps, the price of pumping gas (as intolerably high as it already is!) is deliberately concealed.

Now that I have exposed and defeated the economics of oil-war on its own terms, allow a moment to reflect upon the moral bankruptcy of that very proposition! How do you quantify a life? How do you estimate the moral cost to a country of its network of international torture chambers? Is a world of depleted uranium riddled deserts, littered with unexploded cluster bomblets, arbitrarily arrested citizens and monarchies kept in power by their US trained and supported sadists worth it?

And yet the wars still continue, troops and planes shifted from one country to another, half million dollar missiles are shot into peasant tents, creating terrorists far more effectively than they are destroying them.

In the 1930s we realized our agricultural and grazing policies were destroying the soils, creating dustbowls, ruining the range, and working rather well to ensure an increasingly limited future of wealth, job, and food production. At that time the mood for change among the citizens was high and this mood found its way into a political expression. Investments were made. New systems were experimented with. We changed how we did things, dropped bad habits, and adopted better ones.

Today there is no one left in that tradition of intelligent investment and planning in the Democratic Party. The Republican Party, of course, is even more out of touch, and will go to its grave on the eve of peak oil with a greater fear of homosexuals kissing than it will ever have of an energy crisis. The Military Industrial complex will not solve the problem of peak oil, though they are actively preparing to follow it to its conclusion by training our soldiers to oppress hungry citizens should domestic "order" fail.

An economic system whose planners and leaders predict their own collapse is system that has publicly confessed its own bankruptcy. Why should we listen to its pundits any longer?

We need a new political leadership in this country. It will come from neither of the established parties, to whom thinking people can only wish the speediest possible death. Let us throw off their oppression, and form a new party with the courage to re-invest in an actually sustainable future.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Global Warming and Positive Feedback Loops, in a nutshell

My comment on a yahoo news article announcing

Russian scientists have discovered hundreds of plumes of methane gas, some 1,000 meters in diameter, bubbling to the surface of the Arctic Ocean. Scientists are concerned that as the Arctic Shelf recedes, the unprecedented levels of gas released could greatly accelerate global climate change.

Read it!

This is human caused. What it is is the beginning of a positive feedback loop. A few centuries of burning coal, oil, and natural gas have raised temperatures slightly. What happens when you raise the temperatures slightly is that things like glaciers and Arctic tundra melt. Once they get going they take off and don't stop. Like rolling a snow ball off the top of a mountain, or triggering an avalanche with a pair of skis, the initial push does not take a great deal of effort. But gravity and the nature of snow will do the rest of the work for you, to build a large, fast moving and potentially dangerous accumulation in a little period of time.

A lot of methane is in the Arctic tundra and under the Arctic ocean. Usually it stays trapped there. But if you let enough greenhouse gas into the atmosphere to start melting ice caps and permafrost, a lot more methane goes into the atmosphere, and now your curve towards higher temperatures starts becoming sharper, closer to an exponential curve, and there's no way to turn it "off", even if we went to zero carbon emissions tomorrow.

The retreat of sea ice offers another example of a positive feed back loop. Solar heat hitting the ocean water gets absorbed. Solar heat hitting ice gets reflected back away from Earth. When you melt the ice caps, now a lot of ocean that used to be ice is water. So the oceans are absorbing heat faster and holding it longer than they used to, which of course results in more ice caps melting.

Need a third? How about the gulf stream? Do you know what the difference is between Central Russia and Philadelphia? Not a lot in terms of latitude. But the Gulf Stream brings warm water to much of the US Eastern Sea board and Europe and that keeps those places warmer. It is possible that the melting of the ice caps will change temperatures and salinity levels that will end the gulf stream. That would be a third huge positive feed back loop that once kicked off, would not be possible to shut off, and would change temperatures in those areas very dramatically.

The past billion and a half years of earth's history have seen widely changing global temperatures and sea levels. The only problem with that is that our species evolved to thrive around certain temperatures and certain times, and now has given up much of its mobility in exchange for infrastructure and a devotion to geographically fixed private property. Sure, as a species, we survived the last ice ages. And you know what? The ice ages sucked. It was really cold. A lot of people froze to death. You couldn't grow food and living off of mammoths got really old after a while. Especially after we ran out of mammoths.

Now start looking at the difference in hunter gatherer societies that were affected by the ice age and our society. We have mortgages. Cultivated farm land. Sea level cities. We have trillions of dollars invested into certain sea levels, rain and weather patterns, and our ability to feed ourselves depends on that. When you start changing global temperatures and wind and rain patterns all that goes out the window, and you can start thinking about refugee crises that make Hurricane Katrina or anti-Mexican racism and scapegoating today look like a symphony of brotherhood.

Still don't believe in Global warming? Sweet. I have ski resorts in Taos and Flagstaff to sell you.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

New Party to Organize?

Just heard about this thing, called the Justice Party, here.

WASHINGTON, Dec. 11, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On Monday, December 12, 2011 at 2:00 PM, a diverse group of courageous citizens will announce the formation the Justice Party, which is envisioned as a major new political party for decades to come. The Justice Party seeks governing authority at the local, state, Congressional and national levels, beginning in the 2012 election cycle. The Justice Party is being created as a new 21st -century political vehicle to allow all citizens to work together to bring innovative results-oriented, justice-based solutions to the political debate as soon as possible.

Rocky Anderson, the former Mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah, will deliver an address explaining with the Justice Party is needed at this critical juncture in U.S. history to rapidly achieve economic, social, and environmental justice.

Might fizzle into nothing. Probably will. But there's a chance it might not. I hope it does accomplish something good, and in general we should see citizens' attempts to form independent and genuinely oppositional counter institutions to the bankrupt "Democrat" and "Repbulican" parties as good things.

In the discussion it was said, "we already have politicial partys socialist communist what more do we need?"

And as I responded,


The existing "socialist" and "communist" parties in the US are very small and generally irrelevant to most people. What a new mass party would represent would be an entrance of masses of people into the political arena in an attempt to fight for themselves politically. These same masses of people are not quite at the intellectual or ideological level of the previously organized "socialist" and other left groupings, for better and for worse. Sure they'll make mistakes and not have the "correct" politics. But that is how you learn, by trying. The best thing socialists and other radicals can do is to be part of those conversations with our learning, grappling people- and NOT to lecture them from the side lines about how right such and such a party has been all along and how it's time people adopt its unfamiliar dogma and obediently fall in line to recognize their patient saviors.

Let's see what happens